About Survey of Pakistan

Survey of Pakistan (SoP) is the national surveying and mapping organization. It emerged from Survey of India in 1947 at the time of independence from British rule. As such, practices in the field of surveying and mapping date back to pre-independence British era.

SoP is responsible for the production of basic geographic information for the entire territory of Pakistan, as well as providing the only education in surveying and mapping.

Floods in Pakistan

Pakistan is one of the worst flood-affected countries in the World. The United Nations has rated the floods in Pakistan in 2010 as the greatest humanitarian crisis in recent history with more people affected than the South-East Asian tsunami and the recent earthquakes in Kashmir and Haiti combined. The flood in late July 2010, resulting from heavy monsoon rains in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan regions of Pakistan, affected the entire Indus River basin. Approximately one-fifth of Pakistan's total land area was under water. According to Pakistani government data the floods directly affected about 20 million people, mostly by destruction of property, livelihood and infrastructure, with a death toll close to 2,000.

Pakistan largely lacks maps and geographic information to identify areas that are in risk of flooding as well as for planning preventive measures, such as constructing dams and river walls and planning the location of safe settlements.  Having adequate geographic data in place makes it possible to model the areas that will be flooded given a specified rise of the water level, thus being able to warn people and businesses at risk. For this, the geographic data has to be in digital form including accurate data about the heights of the terrain at different locations along the rivers.

Project necessity

SoP has only very limited amounts of data available in digital form, produced by digitalization of old small scale (1:50 000) paper maps with some updating from satellite images. Information about the heights with 20 meter contour interval is available which is not suitable for flood modelling. A high resolution digital elevation model is urgently needed, as well as up-to-date maps showing existing infrastructures, buildings etc. Such maps should be in larger scales (more detailed) and prepared as line maps or as photomaps (orthophoto maps), both derived from aerial images or high resolution satellite images.

SoP has a significant number of skilled staff for map production, but lacked modern equipment and training in use of the equipment and data from airborne digital sensors, as well as funds to procure laser scanning, aerial images and high resolution satellite images. 

Activities and results

The project consisted of three components:

  • Procurement of airborne laser scanning and aerial photography, as well as high-resolution satellite images for a pilot area
  • Establish capacity at SoP for efficient distribution of geographic information
  • Enhance the capacity at SoP to provide training in modern surveying, mapping and geographic information, to its own employees as well as to students from outside

1. Procurement of aerial and high-resolution satellite imagery for a pilot area:

The images were to be used by SoP for building capacity for preparation of a digital elevation models, line maps and orthophoto maps for a flood risk area of Pakistan (test area of 1250 sq.km.)

Unfortunately aerial photography and lidar scanning was not possible in Pakistan and international bids were too costly, so funds for this activity were re-allocated to other components of the project.

2. Strengthen SOPs role in the NSDI in data distribution:

The objective of the second component of the Project was to build capacity at SoP for efficient data distribution and for taking the lead role in establishing a functioning NSDI for Pakistan.

Geographic information is increasingly distributed via Internet in an organized manner allowing end users to combine basic geographic data from SoP with thematic data from other data producers on-the-fly. This is especially relevant when dealing with floods and other natural catastrophes. SoP has initiated establishment of an NSDI for Pakistan, however still at a conceptual level only.  

A technical solution for the distribution of SoP data - a geoportal - has been developed, containing a metadata catalogue, viewing and downloading services and will be launched in late 2017. Thereafter, technical standards, legislation and guidelines are in the process of being developed for efficient distribution, sharing and combination of geographic information. Agreements with stakeholders and technical solutions for data distribution are also under development.

3. Enhance the capacity at SoP Training Institute:

SoP Training Institute is the only institution in Pakistan which offers courses in these subjects. SoP aims at formal accreditation of courses at bachelor level and in a longer perspective at master level. Improved education is crucial to sustainable modernization of SoP as well as for supporting other public institutions and private sector with a minimum of qualified staff.

Western Norway University (formerly Bergen University College) was involved in the project to advise SoP on the development and implementation of a curriculum for a four-year bachelor degree in geomatics, as well as modern training in the use of of GIS for various applications, such as flood modelling, land use planning, etc.

SoP has been supported with necessary equipment for training sessions and student practices, including GPS-receivers for precise measurements, workstations for preparation of maps and orthophotos and equipment for elaborations with laser data. SoP has also been increasing its intake of female surveying students.

SoP will continue cooperation with Western Norway University on developing courses for bachelor and master level through Erasmus Plus funding.